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Fiber-Rich Diet May Improve Lung Health 

We already know dietary fiber can aid in weight management, support intestinal health, defend against harmful bacteria, and help keep you regular. New research published in Annals of the American Thoracic Society finds fiber may keep you breathing easier too. 

Using data from NHANES, a national survey on health, researchers looked at the dietary habits of 1,921 adults ages 40 to 79 years and analyzed their lung function through spirometry, which measures how quickly full lungs can be emptied and the total volume of air expired. Participants were classified as having normal, restricted or obstructed airflow. 

About 68% of people who ate more than 17.5 grams of fiber per day had normal lung function, compared to just 50% for those who ate less than 10.5 grams of fiber day. About 30% of the low-fiber group had airflow restriction, while the same was true for just 15% of the high-fiber group. People who ate the most fiber had larger lung capacities and could exhale more air in one second, according to tests. Fiber-packed fruits, vegetables and legumes seemed to have the greatest effect on lung health. 

Researchers can’t say for sure why dietary fiber is good for the lungs, but it could be due to fiber’s anti-inflammatory role in the body or improvements in gut microbiota thanks to fiber. Though researchers did account for other beneficial nutrients and dietary risks linked with lung function in their analysis, there’s also still a chance that fiber intake could simply be an indicator of an overall healthier diet, making this an association, not cause and effect. Either way, a healthy diet is a win for your lungs and this study is a good reminder of why it’s important to eat the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the individual nutrients in supplement form. 

Add more fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to your day by whipping up our Refresh smoothie, made with celery, pineapple, banana and apple. Also try berries, pears, baked potatoes with skin, and artichokes, which are particularly high in dietary fiber. 

BONUS: Healthy eating yields healthy lungs. A 2015 study found people who ate the healthiest diet had 33% lower risk of COPD diagnosis compared with those who ate the least healthy diet. Healthy diets contained plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

Published June 1, 2016

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